A (Somewhat) Outside Perspective

By Cory Kibler, Communications Specialist for the Nature Explore Program

Memphis 1 My role at the Nature Explore program is a little unorthodox. I’m not an educator; I wouldn’t know how to begin designing an outdoor classroom (or anything else); and I don’t have any business helping educators use their outdoor classroom. I don’t have children of my own. I was once a child, but that’s about all I have for background.

In some ways, this means that I haven’t fully experienced the scope of what we do for children. I hear about the wonderful transformations taking place across the country—but I don’t always understand the science behind them, or the nature of their long-lasting positive repercussions.

However, my lack of personal investment offers a unique perspective. In my role as a Communications Specialist, it’s my job to market Nature Explore to current and potential partners. At most companies, this would mean spending lots of advertising dollars on web banner ads, TV spots, print ads, and so forth. Here, it’s different. What we do speaks for itself. My job, then, is to help spread the word.

Through articles, social media posts, and blogs (such as this one), my goal is to strengthen our network of amazing partners by underscoring our shared goal of connecting children with nature. And my long-term goal is to completely change the conversation surrounding early education. This is a fascinating time to be involved with a program like Nature Explore; even five years ago, outdoor classrooms still seemed like a far-out concept that still hadn’t achieved a strong foothold in the mind of stakeholders at schools and other organizations.

Now, strangely enough, outdoor classrooms seem like the *only* right answer to how we educate our children. We’ve tried keeping children indoors and sitting still for years, and we’ve known for a long time that it doesn’t work. Through outdoor classrooms, children can connect with their surroundings and each other—and they apply what they learn to real-life situations they care about. Their work doesn’t feel like work, it feels like play. That’s why it works.

The transformational power of an outdoor classroom is obvious—even to someone who’s not a parent (or an educator, or a designer).